REDWOOD CITY, Calif.—What a month December turned out to be for Box, the cloud computing content-management company that continues to gain new enterprise clients and recently inked partnership deals with IBM and Salesforce.com.
In a wide-ranging interview with eWEEK at Box's new headquarters here, CEO and co-founder Aaron Levie discussed how traditional, data center-focused IT is changing and what he considers to be an inevitable transition to the cloud. (Box moved from Mountain View, a few towns south in Silicon Valley, also last month.)
From humble beginnings in 2005, Box now has 54,000 customers (including such blue-chip companies as Coca-Cola, Eli Lilly, GE, the NBA and Procter & Gamble), and 1,300 employees worldwide including 950 at its shiny new headquarters, which includes a second adjacent building it's currently leasing out to startups. Customer use cases range from Adele's record label, which used Box to help distribute the singer's latest album, to GE, which uses Box as its primary collaboration tool.
Levie said the big turning point for Box came in 2007 when he and co-founder Dylan Smith decided to "pivot the company" to focus 100 percent on the enterprise.
Technalysis Research analyst Bob O'Donnell said Box was smart to focus on the enterprise. "You have companies like Dropbox and Google playing in both consumer and enterprise, but Box knows what business it's in."
One of the first big use cases in the enterprise was Procter & Gamble. The marketing department at the consumer goods giant wanted to share files with its external ad agency.
"It's amazing how much the world has changed," recalled Levie. "If you go back seven years and you were in the marketing team at Procter & Gamble and you wanted to share a site, you had to call up the IT department and have them open up the firewall and create credentials for your external partners. That whole process could take two to three weeks. Every organization in the world had that process if you were in marketing, sales or product development—if you wanted to share externally, you had to call IT and go through the process.
"But that's not how business works. In business, you want to be able to share the file right now. So what ended up happening is they would send files via email. Procter & Gamble was pretty savvy and figured out: 'What if we deployed Box more broadly throughout the organization and used it to share files with partners so we could collaborate'?"
Initially, Procter & Gamble used Box as a departmental solution for the sales, marketing, product development and finance teams. "The growth came from the ground up," said Levie. "The IT person for one of the teams might have supported us, but we would never have a conversation with the CIO."
That began to change about five years ago with the rise of mobile. "You had companies standardizing on iOS or Android—a whole new set of mobile devices—and the cloud was starting to get more mature with Salesforce.com, Amazon Web Services, Google and even Microsoft finally starting to talk about the cloud, and that led us to have much more strategic conversations with the CIO," said Levie.